Big defeat in Guernsey doesn’t tell whole story for Bognor

Guernsey once again handed Bognor a lesson in finishing and, in an impressive display, the islanders reinforced their position at the top of the league with a 28-3 triumph.

Despite this, the home team would be the first to admit the final score flattered them and their coach was full of praise afterwards for Bognor’s competitive performance.

Bognor probably shaded possession and territory but the decisive moments came immediately before and after half-time when the visitors conceded two sloppy tries to give themselves a mountain to climb.

Until then Bognor had more than justified their parity and, with the score at 3-3, they looked the more likely to score next. However, chances went begging and they were left chasing the game.

Well-used to the lunchtime kick-off Guernsey flew out of the blocks and immediately tested the visitors’ defence, putting together a dozen or so phases in the first three minutes.

Unable to get their hands on the ball Bognor concentrated on defence and gained confidence in the fact Guernsey had very little to show for their possession.

A short lineout to Dove enabled Thompson to gallop down the touchline but the big Geordie was tackled five metres short of the home try-line.

However the marker had been laid down and Bognor began to take the game to their opposite numbers.

A steady scrum was followed by three strong drives and Guernsey were forced into conceding a penalty. Dave Sweeney was unlucky to see a 35m effort hit the posts and bounce out. Shortly afterwards the full-back hit a great line but was floored by an impressive double-tackle.

Five minutes later Guernsey were awarded a penalty when Sweeney found himself isolated. Almost immediately, the home side were handed a simple chance in front of the posts when Mike O’Connor was wrongly identified as being responsible for a stray hand.

Fortunately for Bognor, Guernsey’s kicker fluffed the opportunity to put his side ahead and Rob Parry breathed a sigh of relief.

After 20 minutes neither side had scored – and then came one of the defining moments. O’Connor, penalised for holding a Guernsey player, was blatantly kicked in the back, a clear red card offence, in full view of the referee.

The referee duly reversed his penalty decision but decided, to the amazement of both sides, to issue merely a warning to the offending Guernsey player. Sweeney kicked the penalty to give Bognor the lead and the home side were happy to settle for that.

Within five minutes Guernsey had equalised after being presented with another simple penalty in front of the posts.

Sweeney put in a great 50m touchfinder and Parry, after a subtle break, just failed to find his support with what would have been a try-scoring pass. Lee Balchin (pictured) was next to be frustrated by excellent cover defence as he was hauled down just short of the line.

Having missed three clear scoring opportunities Bognor lost concentration seconds from half-time and Guernsey used their pace to score out wide on the right.

Feeling aggrieved to be behind at half-time Bognor had salt well and truly rubbed in their wounds within a minute of the restart. Sweeney was caught in possession on his own ten-metre line while fielding a speculative kick and the ball was hacked over the visitors’ line for an opportunistic try.

Basic errors crept into Bognor’s game and, midway through the half, Guernsey extended their lead with another penalty followed by a try from a driving lineout. Guernsey’s counter-rucking, together with Bognor’s tendency to turn the ball over too easily, was proving decisive.

With the game beyond them, Bognor could have been forgiven had their commitment slipped but they fought back strongly for the last ten minutes. Graham Broome gave his opposite number a torrid time in the scrums while man-of-the-match Mike O’Connor was his usual effective self at the tackle area.

Young second-row Dan Harding came off the bench to make his presence felt, as did Paul Eastment, making a welcome reurn from injury.

Guernsey’s prop was yellow-carded but, just when it seemed yet again that Bognor must score the try they deserved, a loose pass allowed Guernsey to break out from their own line. The final nail was hammered into the coffin when Sweeney, outstanding all season but luckless on the day, had his kick charged down, allowing Guernsey to race away and score a bonus-point try.

On Saturday Bognor entertain Gosport and Fareham, just one place above them, for a match that will be crucial to their survival prospects.

BOGNOR: Sweeney, Archer, Castleton, Pearce, Stevens, Shergold, Parry, Morgan, P Mitchell, Broome, Dove, Thompson, O’Connor, N Mitchell, Balchin. Reps: Eastment, Harding, Burgess.